‘I was lucky all the way around’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

Edward Mullins sits inside his Babbie home as he tells of his time in the Army.

Edward Mullins had tears in his eyes when he talked about his experiences as a World War II soldier.

By the time he began speaking about the need to thank veterans for their service, those tears were freely running down his face.

The 90-year-old Babbie resident should know. He served in the 184th regiment of the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division and was stationed on the Aleutian and Marshall Islands, at Pearl Harbor, Okinawa, Japan, and Korea.

“It was my job to carry a gun,” Mullins said. “That’s what infantrymen do – carry guns. I was drafted when I was 22. I lacked three days serving three years. Most of that time I spent overseas in combat.”

During his time, he stormed beaches from amphibious landing vehicles. He was wounded twice during his stint, he said.

“I didn’t think I would ever get home,” he said. “Home” was where he’d left his wife of only 10 months, Katherine, not too far from where the couple now lives on Gardners Church Road. Luckily, he said the couple didn’t have children at the time. “Those came later,” he said.

“The first time I got hit, artillery shrapnel got me on top of my head. Tore it up pretty bad,” he said. “The last time it got me in the shoulder. Thought I was going to lose my arm. I got hit right below my left eye, too. If it’d been a ¼-inch higher, I’d be one-eyed, because over there, there was nothing they could do for things like that.

“I was lucky all the way around,” he said.

However, many of Mullins’ other friends weren’t so lucky. Mullins received his second wound during the Liberation of the Philippines, the last battle of WWII. It was there he realized how lucky he was.

“There was another guy, he was standing right close to me,” he said. “I reckon it was the same shell that got me. It just cut him in two. If you’ve seen them cut the head off a hog, well, that’s what it was like – all his blood just poured out. Right there, right next to me.”

Mullins said during those situations, soldiers have one thing on their mind – survival.

“I stayed scared all the time,” he said. “Anyone who said they weren’t scared, they were a liar. We were getting it from the enemy and our own people, too.

“I’d say the scaredest I’ve ever been was once, when our own planes were coming right at me,” he said. “They were blazing 50 caliber rounds, ready to chew anyone up like sausage meat. I didn’t know what to do. I just hit the ground. Then, they were gone, and somehow, they’d missed me.

“It wasn’t long after that they dropped the bombs,” he said, speaking of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 – acts that prompted the end of WWII.

Mullins said he saw fallout from the bombs firsthand.

“The sky was filled with the most beautiful and most different colors you could imagine,” he said. “I’d never seen them before and hope to never see them again.”

On Nov. 21, 1945, Mullins arrived in Korea for six weeks of occupational duty before returning stateside. From that point forward, he made his living as a farmer in the Babbie Community until 12 years ago when, what doctors described as a stroke (although Mullins said he doesn’t believe them), left the veteran disabled.

He said “every once and a while” someone will thank him for his sacrifices for this country.

“I think people should thank our veterans – not for my sake, but for all those others,” he said.